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Hue

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer: Fiddlesticks
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle/ Platformer (2D)

Graphics & Sound:

Contemplative puzzle-platformers often have an uphill battle, and thatís to say nothing of the success of titles such as Braid, Limbo, and The Swapper. These games are slowly-paced by nature, which in turn gives the player ample time to ponder their ideas and themes. Done right, and you get something provocative and stimulating. Done wrong, you get pretentious, pseudo-intellectual dreck. Thereís often no middle ground. Hue might come close to establishing that middle ground at times, but when all is said and done, it does a fine job of challenging your perspective, something not all puzzle games manage to accomplish.

Hueís jet-black environments and main character design might remind you of Limbo, but that is where the comparisons end. While you may find yourself making the occasional fatal error, you wonít be punished with an unnerving, grisly depiction of your youthful avatarís final moments alive. It remains mostly harmless and cartoony enough. Furthermore (and as its name not-so-subtly suggests), Hue is a colorful game. Rightly so; its premise demands it. It really shows how even the most basic representations of perceivable pigment can alter the way we see things; switching the background from the deepest blue to the borderline garish fuchsia is a jarring effect, from both a physical and mental standpoint. My only complaint is that the pink and purple colors seem a bit too close to each other. Granted, that may be a personal problem; the colorblind mode helps mitigate your losses from that standpoint.

Itíd be easy to write off Hueís sound design as superfluous or even unnecessary. Thatís how heavily this game relies on its visuals. But whatís here is quite lovely. At this point, itís almost a tradition that puzzle platformers have some sort of ambience permeating the experience, regardless of the overall tone of the piece. But Hueís remains consistent with its story, its pacing, and its themes. Piano music is an excellent accompaniment for the human thought process, and the letters left behind by Hueís mother are perfectly voiced: she sounds both wistful and hopeful.


Gameplay:

Hue is a young boy in search of his mother. He also happens to live in a world without color. But as his adventure progresses, he finds himself possessed of a most curious power: the ability to change the color of the world. So he ventures forth, with the letters of his missing mom for company, and his newfound talents to help him brave the many dangers ahead.

A comfortable pattern exists within the framework of Hueís gameplay . Most of the game is spent in special puzzle rooms which Hue must solve in order to leave. Thereís always a door, sometimes a locked one, but itís never a matter of simply walking over to the door and opening it. Hazards abound, and theyíre of the uncommon variety. These obstacles are surmountable, but only by someone possessed of a skillset like Hueís.

Hue features the kind of puzzles that are generally viewed as commonplace. Boxes? Check. Keys? Check. Laser beams? Check. Conveyor belts? Disappearing platforms? Spikes? Check, check, check. But while those kinds of puzzles may feel almost obligatory for this genre, Hueís approach to them is quite ingenious.

Other sequences blend simple platforming with the gameís defining mechanic. Some of these moments are genuinely thrilling, but from a gameplay and thematic standpoint, they donít really gel with the rest of the experience. Hue is a little boy, not the love child of Indiana Jones and Neo.


Difficulty:

Hue features a gentle difficulty curve. Early puzzles donít demand much of your knowledge of the gameís systems or your intellect, for that matter. If youíre experienced with the genre, youíll likely skate merrily through the first part of the game. But as you unlock more and more colors to play with, the puzzles get more and more complex in nature.

Once Hue reaches the University, the game gets really tricky. However, it never frustrates; the next wonderful "eureka!" moment is always right around the corner, provided you have a keen eye and are able to effectively sequence your priorities.


Game Mechanics:

Hueís signature mechanic, the shifting of the worldís background colors, is integral not just to the story, but to every single puzzle in the game. But in the context of our world, it might not sound terribly logical. Allow me to explain.

The world of Hue ignores the basic idea of object permanence. What you see, what you can perceive, is demonstrably all that exists in this world. If you canít see it, it isnít there at all. So say, for instance, a red brick wall stands between Hue and the door that leads to the next area. He doesnít have any tools to break it up, and heís not strong enough to push or pull it out of the way. But shift the color to red and the wall simply vanishes into the background. It is rendered not only invisible, but intangible.

Clever level design and abstract puzzles help elevate Hue a cut above most of the rest, but it occasionally takes its eye off the ball. As mentioned before, certain sections seek to test your reflexes and gut reactions above everything else. I get what the developer was trying to do with these sequences; they serve to switch up the pacing from the occasionally plodding puzzle room examination. These sections are usually brief, but they donít play to the gameís strengths.

Hue is an inventive, remarkably clever title. Its core gimmick is strong enough to carry it across the finish line and then some. It isnít perfect, but it nevertheless delivers an artistically cohesive, intellectually stimulating experience.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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